Malaysia flourish, Singapore flop
Champions easily retain their title as Singapore team flop
That was the only word that came to the minds of spectators and fans after Malaysia romped to victory in the 2016 OCBC Cycle South-east Asia Speedway Championship at the Singapore Sports Hub yesterday.
After wowing the crowd in the first edition of the race last year, the five-man Malaysian easily retained their title, beating fellow finalists Brunei and the Phillippines in the championship race.
Malaysia's team this year saw 2013 South-east Asia (SEA) Games 100km team time-trial bronze medallist Muhammad Fauzan Ahmad Lutfi, 30, return with four new members.
He was joined by 27-year-old Nik Mohd Azwan Zulkifle and 29-year-old Amir Mustafa Rusli, both part of the Malaysian team who secured third position at the Tour of Thailand this year.
Sofian Nabil Omar Mohd Bakri, 23, and Akmal Hakim Zakaria, 20, completed the line-up.
The race was flagged off in wet and humid conditions and, very quickly, the Malaysians moved into the lead with half of the Philippines team following closely.
The men in yellow held on to the lead throughout the race and easily crossed the line in first place with a time of 18min 5.283sec.
The Brunei team overtook the lone-racer from the Philippines to secure second spot.
After losing the title to Malaysia last year, the Singapore team were looking for revenge yesterday but failed to even make it out of qualifying, pipped by Brunei and the Philippines after finishing last in the heats.
Team captain, Ho Jun Rong, 26, explained that the health of two of the riders affected the performance.
He said: "One of our riders, Syadie, was sick. Another, Raymond, felt like blacking out during the race."
While luck simply wasn't on their side, Singapore cyclist Junaidi Hashim, 34, who was competing for the second successive year, said: "It's not anyone's fault. It was a really short race. Anything could have happened.
"But we will learn from this episode and we will come back stronger."
While Ho was disappointed with the outcome of the race, he guaranteed that the team would use yesterday's race as a learning experience, as they work towards next year's SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.
Said Ho, "The race was a dynamic format. It's interesting as it emphasises the fundamentals of teamwork and balancing the riders' strengths equally.
"We are always looking at a long-term plan, which is the 2017 SEA Games.
"I guess we'll use this race to identify our weaknesses and focus on the positives."
While they will be strong favourites on home soil, Malaysian racer Ahmad Lutfi, said they will not underestimate the Singapore outfit in next year's SEA Games.
"Singapore are a strong team, their tactics may need improvement and they may need more time to train but, overall, they are a strong team," he said.